The term "trust fund" conjures up images of mansions, yachts and huge fortunes. But once the province of the very rich, trusts have found themselves into the lives of many families who’ve never thought of themselves as wealthy.

Trusts come in myriad forms, but for middle-class families, the living trust is popular because the person creating the trust can enjoy lifetime benefits. You can deposit assets in your own trust and ask the trustee to manage them prudently and pay the income to you, so you have more time for hobbies, travel and family.

Later, there are other important advantages. The property in a living trust that survives you can avoid the costs, publicity and delays of probate and speed property distribution to your spouse or other beneficiaries. If you choose, the trust can continue for their benefit in order to provide sound investment management and reliable financial support.

What Is a Living Trust, Anyway?
Unlike a trust you might establish by will, a living trust is set up by a written agreement between you and the trustee, and it takes effect immediately.

While you can be your own trustee, you may prefer to name a professional trustee to manage the trust assets, keep good records, pay you a regular income and—should you become incapacitated—pay your household and medical bills.

A living trust can be revocable or irrevocable. The advantage of a revocable trust is that you don’t give up control—you can amend its terms or even cancel it whenever you wish. On the other hand, you may want to put some of your assets in an irrevocable trust so you can achieve other significant goals.

For example, you could set up a charitable remainder trust to pay yourself a dependable income for your lifetime and then distribute the remaining principal to our organization. The substantial, current income tax savings as well as future estate tax savings of this kind of trust magnify its appeal.

Your Estate Plan, Too
A revocable living trust can be an important part of your estate plan. It’s an ideal vehicle for holding title to real estate outside your home state. You can make your life insurance payable to your trust. And the trust can include a credit shelter trust provision to help minimize estate taxes and other provisions to make gifts to family and charitable beneficiaries.

Along with your attorney, we can show you how a living trust can blend your personal needs, estate plans and philanthropic intentions.

SOURCE: University of Georgia in an article written by Mary L. McCormack